Hello palaeo friends, it’s time for me to finally contribute my first Vintage Dinosaur Art post since LITC moved to its new home! Last fall I had the pleasure of speaking at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History‘s Dinofest, and afterwards the CMNH palaeo team of Michael Ryan, Lee and Ashley Hall, and Amanda McGee took me and fellow ROMulans Danielle Dufault and Cary Woodruff around the sights in Cleveland. One amazing stop was this absolutely bananas toy store called Big Fun, which was absolutely chock full of 80s and 90s nerdery that spoke directly to my 30-something heart. One find I was particularly tickled by was this 1988 Astro Boy comic book featuring RAD 80s DINOSAURS.
SO RADICAL AND POSSIBLY EVEN TUBULAR. Anyway, our story starts with Astro’s friend Kris and her dog named Poochie (yes, POOCHIE) stumbling across a real living dinosaur! Astro saves the day, and they take it to his scientist dad at the Bio Institute, where they discover it’s been engineered at ‘the atomic level’ by some unknown entity. Although this dinosaur isn’t identified, that horn on the nose suggests they’re going for a Ceratosaurus; you’ve gotta love that dopey tongue sticking out through the fangs.
Shenanigans ensue and more prehistoric pals are discovered, like these distressingly spike-thumbed Pteranodon (presumbly a misinterpretation of the pteroid bone?).
Astro rounds up all the dinosaurs and takes them to an under-construction zoo for safe-keeping. I love that the Stegosaurus is being hauled over by the tip of its tail, and I also really like that super sketchy theropod that appears to be mostly composed of teeth in the background.
Somewhat bizarrely, Astro then just up and heads home for the night where also he is introduced to a brand-new little sister, Astro Girl, and is instructed to read her a bedtime story. Sure.
The comic then switches to a totally different illustration style for the second half of the comic, representing the storybook Astro is reading, and it’s really cool. I love the details and the abundant lines for shading. And just look at that list of palaeoart name-drops! That secret synapsid in the form of Moschops in the back there sent me on a google quest to figure out what toys may have inspired this illustration, and I think many of these might have been drawn after the Marx series from the 1950s-60s. In particular, that ornithomimid and Styracosaurus seem pretty similar. Also, don’t forget to notice that extremely UPSIDE DOWN ANKYLOSAUR, paging Jordan Mallon!
Things get interesting in the storybook when, again, real live dinosaurs are encountered! A classic Triceratops vs Tyrannosaurus battle takes place, but was it all just a dream? (*spoilers: yes)
I’ll be on the lookout for more dinosaurs in vintage comic books – let me know in the comments where you’ve spotted some! Until next time!